A new restaurant recently popped up at the 2nd level of SM Megamall Atrium called Yabu. Yabu specializes in katsu the short form of katsuretsu (cutlet), first invented in 19th century Japan and has evolved into a classic Japanese dish, available almost by default in most Japanese restaurants. In Yabu, they take the art of making katsu very seriously from the choice of ingredients to the way they prepare and cook the katsus even enlisting the services of popular Tokyo tonkasu restaurant Chef Kazuya Takeda of Takeshin Bunten to train their chefs.
Upon entering the elongated space the restaurant occupies, you will see on one wall a manga (Japanese comic) story of the quest for katsu, while on the other side is a delicately created wooden wall.
Settling down into your seats you will definitely notice the quirky condiment tray containing different containers and bottles.
The most interesting of all was this pig like thing, that had a large circular opening with a small teaspoon inside which upon further checking contained salt.
Each order of tonkatsu came with a bowl of sesame seeds and a wooden mortar to ground them, mine was immediately appropriated by Lauren, who was eager to do it for me.
After grounding the sesame seeds, you then add tonkatsu sauce (Japanese Worcestershire sauce with apple puree) to finish off the sauce. After all that sauce ceremony, its time for the true test, eating time.
I ordered the Premium Tonakatsu Set (P515). The meat (120g) it uses is the imported US Kurobuta, also known as a Berkshire Black Pig, hailed as the “kobe beef” equivalent of pork. Each of their tonkatsu sets comes with a bowl of Japanese rice, a few pieces of pickles, cabbage salad, miso soup and a bowl of fruit.
The tonkatsu is the best I’ve ever had, 3/4 inch thick, crunchy and flaky panko crust outside, succulent and tender meat inside. Even without dipping the meat into the sauce, you can readily taste the flavor. You might notice that the tonkatsu is served atop a wire mesh stand which elevates it above the plate, I think this is to maintain crispiness on both sides.
You can readily see the difference between the kurobuta and the ordinary pig by the darker color of the meat.The kurobuta is a very pink and marbled piece of prized meat.
The cabbage that is served on the side is without dressing, you can add either the vinaigrette or sesame dressing provided on the condiment tray I mentioned earlier. The cabbage salad is also refillable, so eat and munch to your heart or more appropriately your tummies content.
Irene picked a Hire Tonkatsu set (P365/150grams). Hire is the pork tenderloin cut, while they also have the Rosu which is pork loin cut with a trimming of fat. I had a couple pieces of her order but still prefer my kurobuta tonkatsu, even Irene said it tasted more delicious. I also like to comment on the rice, it tasted very good, no hint of lesser varieties being added. The rice was fluffy and sticky, just like the ones we eat at home.
We ordered a Tonkatsu Kids Meal (P175) for Lauren. Irene and Lauren shared one big and one kids meal and still could not finish it all without my pitching in. The kids meal differs from the adult meals by the inclusion of Edadame (soy) beans and a piece of croquette. the rice is also shaped although I could not decipher what it was. Both the beans and the croquette were chucked to my plate because Lauren did not like them. She liked the tonkatsu though, but she ate it without the sauce.
For non pork eaters, they have chicken as well as some seafood like scallops, shrimps and oysters.
I’ve always wanted to eat at authentic katsu restaurants when we travel to other countries but have always been outvoted by Irene and Lauren. I’m really happy the experience can now be had here in Manila and so near our place. With both Irene and Lauren liking Yabu, I know we will be back without much prodding. An added bonus is the presence of the Gong Cha branch just outside. You can opt to eat your meal with a Gong Cha drink or have it for dessert. Next thing to do is to compare it with those in other countries.
Yabu, House of Katsu
2nd Level Megamall Atrium
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